Gideon Rachman: Beware the Guns of August
Gideon Rachman was appointed Chief Foreign Affairs Columnist and an Associate Editor of the Financial Times in July 2006.
By the time this column is published I will be on holiday in France, and the US might finally have stepped back from the abyss of debt default.
Viewed from Europe, the American financial uproar is baffling. It is not just the entirely avoidable nature of the crisis. It is also its timing. The entire European political calendar is constructed around the idea that nothing ever happens – or should be allowed to happen – in August.
The drama that surrounded the emergency eurozonesummit in Brussels in late July was partly caused by the threat of financial chaos, if Greece was not lent more money. But an unstated reason for the sense of urgency of the leaders around the conference table was a desperate desire to get a deal wrapped up – before the holiday season began in earnest.
Judged in these limited terms, the summit deal might be counted a success. It surely has not solved the crisis in the eurozone. But the European Union’s leaders might have done enough to ensure that there will probably be no call for further emergency summits until after the rentrée in early September.
When something really drastic happens in the month of August, European leaders are often caught on the hop. In August 2008, when Russian tanks rolled into Georgia, David Miliband, Britain’s foreign secretary at the time, had to deal with the crisis on a mobile phone from a holiday villa in Spain.
But in fact, a study of history suggests that Europe’s leaders are kidding themselves if they think that August is a safe month in which to head for the hills or the beach...
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